Sunday, November 25, 2007

November 25 - Montauk rarities

A great day came about today as I was able to add 4 new "State of New York" birds to my lifetime total. One of these was the Pink-Footed Goose, and this is the first time ever that this species from Greenland has appeared within New York state.
The others were Barnacle Goose, Western Kingbird, and Ash-Throated Flycatcher.

Here is the Western Kingbird. Note the brighter yellow color and black tail.

Here is the Ash-Throated Flycatcher, note the duller yellow and rust-colored tail:

Oddly, the first time I ever saw these geese was earlier in 2007 up in Rhode Island.
You can read about that adventure here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

November 18 - Calliope Hummingbird in N.J.

After a very long day yesterday I received a call from Rob about a Calliope Hummingbird being seen at a home in nearby Denville, NJ. Earlier this year we had tried for this extremely rare East Coast vagrant without success, this time we would not be foiled !

Rob got there at first light and saw the bird a few minutes before 7 am. I arrived about 20 minutes later and was able to see my second life-bird of the weekend.
credit:Stephen Bahir

The bird was quite cooperative and fed frequently. It was remarkable for me to see a hummingbird while snow was falling, but I presume that this montane-breeding species has seen many a snow squall previously.

credit: Jim Gilbert

November 17 - Winter Finches "en masse"

Very early this morning (still last night for most normal folks !) my friend and I departed for the North-Central Massachusetts town of Royalston, which is just a few miles from New Hampshire. We set out to try our luck with the early winter finches that have been reported here.
It's probable that such birds will come closer, and remotely possible to even appear in my home state, much later on during this winter but I did not want to take a chance on that. The drive was exceptionally easy as more than 90% was on Interstate highways. During the final trek on local roads we stopped at a set of feeders and picked up some views of Pine Siskins.

Upon arriving in Royalston just before 8 am we immediately had tremendous looks of a large flock of Evening Grosbeaks. Shortly afterward we walked down the road from the library and came upon our first set of Pine Grosbeaks !

This species was a life-bird for me, and just the fourth time being seen for my friend Rob. We soaked up some amazing views of these birds, and likely saw a total that approached two-dozen.
It's difficult to describe the beautiful views of the Cranberry-colored males with their gray undertones, combined with the regal Golden and jet Black colors of the Evening Grosbeaks being in your scope simultaneously, but it was breath-taking.

Also seen at this spot was a roosting Barred Owl, who was subsequently chased from it's low perch by a passing Wild Turkey.

After having such early and satisfying success here, we took the advice of the local birders we met to go further east to Mt. Watatic where another boreal vagrant was being seen.
After a short drive, and a 1.5 mile hike up to the summit we took in tremendous views of the obliging Gray Jay.

click on images for larger views

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

November 4 - Cape May and Brigantine NWR

With the clock "falling-back" an hour, I awoke earlier than usual today and decided to put that extra time to good use by driving on the Garden State Parkway !

I arrived at the Cape May Hawkwatch around 7:30 and did some seawatching in hopes of locating a Parasitic Jaeger, but the bird was not seen. I then made a stop at the Gingerbread Church around the corner and saw a Common Eider hen there. Then I made a trip over to the Meadows where I had very nice looks at a cooperative Dickcissel, along with other sparrows of Song, Swamp, Savannah, Field, Vesper, White-Crowned, White-Throated and House. At other places today I had Towhee, Junco, and Chipping Sparrows as well.

Here is an image of a Dickcissel:

Returning to the Hawkwatch I was able to see 4-5 of the annual, but rare, Cave Swallows.

Then I went down to the beach near the old military Bunker, and in the weedy field there saw a lone Snow Bunting, at least two Lapland Longspurs, and several American Pipits.

Then I decided to break up the long ride home with a stop at Brigantine (aka Forsythe) NWR.
Here is was able to find 4 Marbled Godwits, the continuing White Pelican along with late sandpipers of Pectoral & Semi-Palmated, and a late Semi-Palmated Plover.

October 29 to November 2 - Saint Kitts island

The wife and I took a few days off and visited the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, formerly known as Saint Christopher. This island is in the Lesser Antilles section of the Caribbean, and is southeast of Puerto Rico.
There is very little published info on the birds of the island, and even less about the birding spots. I did manage to locate this fine birding report by a British ornithologist. It was helpful to get an idea of what birds might be seen during my trip.

I stayed at a hotel on North Frigate Bay, and walked to the areas of Muddy Point, as well as, the Frigate Bay Salt Pond. This map illustrates where I was.

All totaled I saw 51 species of birds, most of which are regular North American shorebirds and warblers. Some of my favorites were the Brown Booby, which I had previously seen once on Key West in Florida and once on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Also nice to see were the birds less common to my home state.
These being the Snowy and Wilson's Plovers.

Finally another bird I enjoyed seeing again is the honeycreeper like Bananaquit:

Overall a nice trip, and some good birds were seen on this non-birding trip.

Here is the complete list:
Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Brown Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Blue Heron,Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Green Heron , Black-crowned Night-Heron , Yellow-crowned Night-Heron , Blue-winged Teal, Osprey, American Kestrel , Merlin , Peregrine Falcon , Common Moorhen , Black-necked Stilt , American Avocet , American Golden-Plover , Black-bellied Plover , Semipalmated Plover , Wilson's Plover , Killdeer , Snowy Plover , Wilson's Snipe , Short-billed Dowitcher , Greater Yellowlegs , Lesser Yellowlegs , Spotted Sandpiper , Ruddy Turnstone , Red Knot , Sanderling , Semipalmated Sandpiper , Western Sandpiper , Least Sandpiper , Pectoral Sandpiper , Stilt Sandpiper , Royal Tern , Zenaida Dove , Common Ground-Dove , Belted Kingfisher , Gray Kingbird , Bank Swallow , Barn Swallow , Yellow Warbler , Northern Waterthrush , Bananaquit , Black-faced Grassquit , Lesser Antillean Bullfinch.